tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN February 7, 2018 3:30pm-5:30pm EST
this is the story of two extraordinary, extraordinary individuals that helped build our community, helped build our state, and remarkable and very humble ways. george along with his partner at the time built the restaurant with their own hands. peggy became george's business partner as well as his life partner. she did the books. she greeted the guests. she wasnvolved in every aspect of the enterprise. in 2002, the lucky wish bone was named alaska's small business of the year. when you think about it, there is nothing more homegrown, nothing more truly small business and entrepreneurial than that small diner that everybody calls home. peggy flew back to washington, d.c. to receive the award in 2002. she was introduced at the time to president george w. bush by
senator stevens, and senator stevens told the president, he said, this lady makes some of the best fried chicken in the country. you wouldn't think that coming from alaska but i can testify from personal knowledge that that was a fact. the lucky wish bone, i expect, will continue on. it is a successful business with a large, large following. but with the passing of peggy and now george marks the end of an era for us back in alaska. we have lost two beloved pioneers who were dear friends to so many of us, and i am proud to count myself among that group. it's important that we acknowledge their place in alaska's history, and that's what i intend to do briefly today. george was a native of wisconsin. he attended high school in red wing, minnesota. he joined the minnesota national guard. he was selected for officer candidate school.
in 1943, george and peggy met, and they married the next year in 1944. it is said that they met over formica. george was training to be a pilot and peggy was a waitress, and some would suggest that their destiny as operates -- operators of an iconic diner was sealed at that very momen but world war ii came first.orgo india. he was one of those brave pilots who navigated military aircraft over the himalayas, colloquially known as the hump. coincidentally, another significant figure in alaska's history flew those same routes during the war. that guy's name was ted stevens. after the war, george and peggy returned briefly to the midwest. they bought a share in a restaurant. in 1951 they sold their share. they took off for alaska. and in 1949, nash.
it was a bumpy, dusty two-week journey we're told. upon arrival george worked construction on elmendorf air force base and helped build a home for his family. they moved to arizona for a short time in the 1950's and tried out another restaurant. at that time it was in tucson. it didn't work. it was a flop. they returned to alaska to try again, and this time it was no flop. on the occasion of the wish bone's 50th anniversary in 2005, george recalled the wish bone's first week in business. he shared this with a reporter of the anchorage daily news, and he said as follows, the first day we took in $80. the second day, $125. then we went to $300 on saturday, i believe it was. we were totally swamped. and on sunday it was $460. at that time, why of course
coffee was ten cents. a jumbo hamburger was 65 cents. a regular hamburger, 40 cents. a milkshake, 35 cents, that kind of thing. things were looking pretty good after that first week. from then on, the business grew and grew and grew. those were george's words. and 50 years later, according to mckinney, the wish bone was serving up over a thousand chickens a week, somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 a year. serving up all that food, of course, requires a pretty big team. george and peggy had four children, and every one of them, every one of them put in time at the lucky wish bone. patricia brown heller is one of those children. she's the oldest the fr. she tells the story about her involvement working in the restaurant. she says she pretty much cut her teeth in the restaurant.
she was the fastest peeler and potato slicer at the wish bone. she says on the order of 200 pounds a day. she was working in the family's restaurant, again, cutting those potatoes, peeling them every morning, cutting them every morning. pat decided that the restaurant was not going to be her career, and decided to go another route. she was the long time state director for the former senator murkowski, my father, senator frank murkowski. then when i came to the senate, she continued on as my state director in 2003. but peggy has always, as her siblings have been, a true fixture along with her parents at the lucky wish bone. the demands of the business required growth in the workforce and george and peggy maintained
a high standard and demanded much of their employees. many chose to stay. they were adopted into the browns' extended family. and if you ask people throughout aeufrpblgs -- anchorage if they know somebody who worked at the lucky wish bone, i can tell you that extended familys pretty large. it's pretty significant. george and peggy were known for giving away $30,000 to $40,000 in christmas bonuses, health insurance, and pensions. they were very protective of the health of their customers and their employees, and the lucky wish bone became smoke-free long before it was fashionable, and not without more than its share of controversy because many of their customers liked to smoke. but not at the wish bone. oftentimes when mom and pop passes away, the business dies with them. but fortunately that won't be the case here. ownership responsibilities going forward will be shared by pat
and two long-term employees of the wish bone. and out of love and respect for george and peggy, they made a commitment to anchorage, so nothing is going to change. it's comforting to know that the chicken will still be wonderful, the cheeseburgers will still be real, the milkshakes good and of course the french fries cut fresh that morning. community is a highly valued concept back home in alaska. george brown may have set out to run a successful restaurant, but what he did was he created a community, a community institution, a place for people to talk about golf or flying or whatever the issues of the day. we have a tradition, i guess you can call it a tradition in my family. during aig when you come to election day, there is
oftentimes not much more that can be done. you've gotten your message out. you're just kind of waiting for people to vote. and so a tradition in our family is we go out for a nice lunch, and we always go to the lucky wish bone on election day. i think i'm going to continue that one. but this is a place where the coffee is warm, the food is hardy, a place where the smiles and the hugs have always been readily available. and as much as i have missed peggy since she has passed, i will certainly miss george. i will miss his smile. i will miss his conversation. but it's comforting to know that their legacy will continue. on february 11, so this weekend, george's friends and supporters and admirers will gather at the alaska aviation museum to celebrate his life. it's really an appropriate place
for george because he, he was a pilot. once a pilot, always a pilot. he had 73 years experience at the cockpit at age 94, when he landed his last cessna on the lake to fish. i just spoke, had an opportunity to speak with pat before i came to the floor, and she's worried that the locatio that they've chosen for the service will be too small because they anticipate some 400 alaskans that come to gather. and she made the comment to me, she said at 96, you wouldn't figure that there would be that many people at someone's service. and i reminded pat that george was that person who touched so many people's lives, whether as a pilot, whether as a small businessman, whether as a community leader, or whether
just the generous man with a good cup of coffee who would sit at the banquet table with you there at the lucky wish bone and just share a conversation. he was a man of many talents and extraordinary good heart and goodwill. and on behalf of my senate colleagues, i bid farewell to this outstanding alaskan. i extend my condolences to his family and to all those whose life he enriched. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. orum call:
mr. cornyn: mr. president, i ask consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cornyn: mr. president, all week i've been speaking about the impending deadline of tomorrow when the continuing resolution that we passed following the shutdown of the government over the daca issue. i've been talking about the importance of that deadline and the importance of meeting that deadline. you can imagine my reaction, my pleasure at hearing the announcement this afternoon by the majority leader, his hard work leading to this critical funding negotiation has led to an agreement that both sides should be able to get behind. one of these reasons these negotiations were so significant and why the announcement was such good news is because of the military. i happened to be raised by someone who was in the military.
my dad was in the air force and a b-72 air pilot in the old air corps. those who have seen movies like "memphis bell" realize what treacherous service that was during world war ii. he was shot down on his 26th mission over mannheim, germany, during the last four months of world war ii. but thanks goodness to the united states army, and general paton, who came through germany and liberated the p.o.w. camps at the end of world war ii, my dad came home and built a family and finished his career after 21 years in the military. i recognize the importance of our support, not only for the ones, the people who wear the uniform, but also for the
families. because, of course, having an all-volunteer military means you have to provide support not just for the service member but for the families as well. when our service members enlist, they sign a contract and basically hand their lives over to us to be good stewards of their service and to be in a position of trust, to hold their budget hostage, which is what has happened up until now, is to ask them to assume even greater risk in order to satisfy certain narrow political agendas. and given all that our men and women in uniform do for us to keep us safe, to keep the world at peace, as much as that is possible, it's not too much to call holding that funding hostage a disgrace. our men and women in uniform can't afford to be hamstrung, especially when we face new and evolving threats across the
globe. but because of our inability to produce longer-term certainty, they were, that is, until now. the compromis weeach will ensure that our troops will have what they deserve in terms of training, equipment, and readiness, and our country has what it needs in order to achieve peace through strength across the globe. since the bught control act -- budget control act of 2011, we have kept defense spending relatively flat and unfortunately the threats have done nothing but proliferate and increase. we've seen a number of training accidents, like the fitzgerald and the john mccain, where literally, according to general mattis, we lost more service members in accidents as a result of inadequate training and readiness than we have in hostile activities.
that's just a shameful situation, and of course, we have acted to change it. yesterday secretary mattis testified before the senate armed services committee and wasted no time in telling us how urgent the situation was becoming. he said without a proper defense appropriation bill the u.s. military lacks the most fundamental congressional support. as secretary mattis stated, the new defense strategy requires suained, predictable appropriations in order to be carried out. i'm confident we're heading towards that in light of this new agreement but it took us an embarrassingly long time to get here and that is regrettable to say the least. i join the majority leader and our leagues in strong support of our men and women in uniform and their families during this week of difficult and delicate
negotiations. and i ask my other colleagues to vote and support this bipartisan legislation to show their support for our military readiness, procurement and testing, all of which are required to keep our forces the best trained, best equipped and best prepared force on the planet. but when we vote on this agreement, we can't lose sight of other critically important issues, issues that seem to fade from people's memories. that's something like disaster relief. i can't describe adequately the outpouring of support we got from the president on down through neighbors helping neighbors following hurricane harvey and its devastating impact on my state. certainly our hearts were with the people of the virgin islands and puerto rico and florida as they suffered from hurricane maria as well as our friends and
colleagues out west as a result of the devastation caused by wildfires, mudslides and other hardships. the house passed an $81 billion relief package at the end of last year, and here we are a couple of months later before we actually are acting on this disaster relief package. it's long overdue. i'm pleased, though, to announce the bill we'll be voting on provides significant funding for disaster relief efforts around the coundntry, i applaud the house for taking the first sp in december. and i appreciate governor abbott of texas as well as the senate appropriations committee for working with us to help us strengthen the house bill. my fellow texans who were hit by hurricane harvey last august have been waiting patiently along with all the folks that face the fury of mother nature in florida and california and puerto rico and the virgin islands. and it's simply been
unacceptable to see the delay in getting the relief that they need to them. but now we have the chance to stand up finally in a bipartisan fashion and to show them not only that we remember what they've been through, but that more help is on the way. that's why i'm urging all of my colleagues to support this agreement when we take it up. mr. president, the last issue i would like to address is a bill that i cosponsored called cary's law. two days ago we passed it in the senate, and soon i hope the house will follow suit. it's imperative that we get this bill to the desk of the president for his final signature soon so it can become law. cary's law amends the communications act of 1934 to require multiline telephone systems common in places like hotels and offices to be equipped for emergency calls. under the bill, users of these
phone systems will have the ability to dial 911 without first having to dial for an outside line. why is this important? well, let me tell you briefly the story of cary hunt dunne of marshal, texas. cary was killed in her hotel room in marshal, texas, in 2013. cary's then nine-ye daughter was unable to reach emergency personnel because she failed to dial 9 to get an outside line. she tried four times but was unable to connect, which meant no help ever came. with this simple change in the default configuration of phone systems in offices and hotels, we can help folks reach the help they need in a crisis quickly and we can save precious seconds that ultimately could save precious lives. i'm grateful to my colleague, the senior senator from minnesota, for working with us on this legislation as well as
my colleague, representative louie gomer, who carried the bill, the corresponding bill in the house. and i also want to thank mr. hank hunt, cary's father for his hard work in championing this bill and pushing so hard for this crucial change to become law. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: 9 the senator for pennsylvania. mr. toomey: i rise today to honor the super bowl champions philadelphia eagles. last night in minneapolis, the philadelphia eagles defeated the patriots by a score of -- in one of the most amazing games ever.
it was an extraordinary night. and in so doing, the eagles of course captured their first super bowl title ever and the franchise's first national championship since 1960. the eagles arguably improbae super bowl runame despite many serious injuries and a whole lot of doubts from naysayers and pundits and odds makers. the odd makers had the eagles as underdogs in every playoff game they played. they won every one of them. it was a team led by doug peterson, a coach who himself entering the season was often doubted and sometimes dismissed by the punditry and talking heads. well, not only did coach peterson make his critics look silly, but in winning the super bowl, he beat a man who's arguably considered one of the best coaches in nfl history, and
he did it, peterson did, by deploying one of the greatest offensive game plans i think the nfl has ever seen. the group of men that comprise the eagles roster embody the city of philadelphia, brash and gritty talented, never say die attitude. they're led by stalwarts like malcom jenkins. the eagles next man up mentality was incredible to witness. think about what they had to overcome. over the course of the regular season, the eagles lost a hall of fame left tackle, their amazing middle linebacker, arguably the best pound-for-pound player in all of football, and they still steam rolled to a 13 and 3 record in the regular season. and for all of that, maybe the greatest example of the next man up mentality in really, maybe in
nfl history was the way that nick foles took over for the quarterback when carson was lost due to a serious injury late in the season. wentz i think was the leading candidate for m.v.p. i think he still should be considered a leading candidate for m.v.p. for the season and the fact that nick foles was able to step in and guide the team not just into the playoffs, not just through the playoffs, but all the way to the super bowl and to a super bowl victory against the new england patriots, it's the stuff legends are made of. mr. president, the philadelphia eagles are an historic franchise. some of the best players in the history of the game have worn the green and white. names like van brocklin and white and dawkins come to mind.
well, this super bowl is also for all of these great players who put on the eagles jersey over the years. i'll conclude with this. if you listen to sports radio in philadelphia, most of eastern pennsylvania, you learn the passion of the fan base is really extraordinary. and this is because the eagles in many ways are more than a football team to its fans. the eagles are a part of pennsylvania culture. they are a part of the region's culture. and the mood of the region is affected every weekend that they're playing. so other cities certainly celebrated super bowl victories in the past. somebody gets to do that every year. but this thursday afternoon in philadelphia, get ready for a party like you have never seen. because the most passionate fans in the country are finally getting a parade down broad street with the lombardi trophy. go birds.
topic that i've been speaking on once a week or thereabouts since we passed the historic tax reform late last year. last friday i had the chance to visit skwred poole tools northeast plastics in scranton, pennsylvania. it's a company owned by cindy and allen hayen. jet pool tools make swimming pool accessories. they make skimmers and water test kits and other devices that people use in their pools. northeast plastics is a sister company, and they make custom plastic products like locker handles and barber supplies and all kinds of special order products. well, mr. president, this is a great example of tax reform in action, tax reform that is working for this small business and this employer in northeastern pennsylvania. they, like other small
businesses, get to discount by 20% their net income and only pay tax on the other 80%. that frees up cash flow for this business and businesses all across america to go out and purchase new equipment, to invest in their employees, to grow their business, to hire more workers, to raise wages. and that's exactly what's happening. it's happening there at jed pools, but it's also happening really across the country. in less than two months since our legislation was passed, over 300 businesses employing over three million workers have announced bonuses, wage increases, expanded benefits, contributions to pension plans, increased investment in charitable contributions. the list goes on and on. and these are the ones that cite tax reform as the reason they were able to do these things for their workers, for their
business. in pennsylvania alone, 've had some recent announcements. thmo fisher, thermo fisher employs 2,600 people in pennsylvania. it's a biotech development company. they announced $34 million in the form of bonuses that they're going to pay to each of the company's 68,000 nonexecutive employees. they have also announced $16 million in additional research and development programs and support for stem education. and they cited that they're doing this as a direct result of the tax reform that was cigna, big global health service company, 5,900 employees in pennsylvania. and, again, citing our tax reform, they have announced that
they're going to increase the minimum wage that they pay throughout the company to $16 an hour. that will be the lowest wage anyone at an entry-level, starting level, the lowest wage anyone makes at cigna. and they're going to provide an additional $15 million in salary raises to people who are already working there. oh, and they are also going to put $30 million more into 401(k) savings programs that their employees participate in, all attributable directly to the tax reform. or take the case of ups. ups employs 19,000 pennsylvanians, and they announced that due to the favorable tax law impact -- that's their words -- they're committing an additional $7 billion in capital spending over three years to build and renovate facilities, to being a choir new aircraft and -- to acquire new aircraft, to enhance their technical platforms.
and they announced they're going to contribute an additional $5 billion to their employees' pension plans as well. that comes to about $13,000 per participant. that's a tremendous amount of money for each of their employees. but there are small companies that are sharing the benefits as well. noah bank in elkins park, pennsylvania, they said specifically thanks to the passage of the new tax legislation, this chartered community bank is awarding $15,000 bonuses to all of their employees. mr. president, we're seeing it all up and down the country, certainly all across pennsylvania at large firms, small firms, financial firms, manufacturers, across the board workers are already benefiting from the tax reform that we passed back in december. another important indicator that
the benefits are likely to grow is the optimism that workers and business have because of the environment they're operating in. it's a real important driver. u.b.s. does research on investment and business optimism. they recently did a survey of business owners, and they asked the question, several questions. one of them is, is your economic outlook positive? well, in the fourth quarter of last year, it was positive. 65% said yes. first-quarter of this year, it's up to 83%. they asked the question, is the business outlook stronger now than it was in the past? in the fourth quarter of last year 77% said, yes, it's stronger. the first-quarter of this year, 87% said, yes, the business outlook is stronger.
they asked business owners about their plans for hiring and investing. 36% plan to hire more workers, 37% plan to ininvest more. it is optimism about the future that is a necessary precondition for more investment. because, after all, that investment depends on a strong economy going forward to make it worthwhile. well, that investment is reaching new highs because of the combination of a lighter regulatory touch and pro-growth tax reform. it is important to stress, mr. president, that this tax reform is not some kind of short-term, sugar-high, let's throw money at people and hope it goes well. it's not that at all. it's a set of different incentives that will lead to a structural change in the
economy, and specifically, greater productive capacity on the part of our economy by encouraging more investment, by lowering the cost of making that investment, by allowing businesses to retain more of their earnings so they have more to ininvest. -- invest. it creates more demand for workers, more demand for workers, puts upward pressure on workers' wages. what did we see just last week a major, in fact the largest increase in average worker wages than we have seen in many years. mr. president, i am thrilled that this tax reform is having such beneficial impact all across the commonwealth of pennsylvania and so quickly. i expected upward pressure on wages, i expected more job opportunities, i expected a higher standard of living. i didn't quite expect it to
happen this quickly, but i'm thrilled that it is and i'm convinced this is just the beginning. i yield the floor. mr. nelson: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. nelson: mr. president, i expecting my colleague, senator rubio, to be joining here on the floor as we want to talk about some of the legislative fixes to some of the problems that have come out as a result of these devastating hurricanes. it's been five months since hurricane irma hit florida. it's been four months since maria hit puerto rico and irma hit puerto rico as well. and, of course, before the
florida hurricane of irma, you had all the problem of the flooding with another hurricane in texas and then later on the wildfires in california, and so i'm happy to finally be able to say that we have a path forward now on a disaster aid bill for all of these natural disasters. now, i can't count on the fingers of both hands how many times i've been out here and i could say the same of the letters and speeches that senator rubio and i have bothdes disaster aid and the need for it. and, finally, we are seeing some
light at the end of the tunnel that there's a good possibility that this is going to happen in the senate within the next two days because the problem is that american citizens have been living without power, schools and businesses are closed, and this is in puerto rico, and the federal government has been dragging its feet to help them. people have been waiting and they've been suffering and over one-third of the people in puerto rico are as of right now closing in on five months after the hurricane without electricity. potable water is still a problem
in puerto rico. now, can you imagine any other mainland state if nearly five months after a hurricane and one-third of the people didn't have electricity restored, i mean, there would be such outrage and demonstrations. well, this is what's going on in puerto rico. and finally i think we are able to see in this disaster bill some assistance to the island as well as to the virgin islands, and especially to our state of florida that was hit so hard. so i want to outline some of us, but just to tell the senate that -- senator rubio, i've been talking about all the things we have done together in trying to
get this disaster aid package to finally come to the point at which we can say we are so thankful that we see a path forward. we've discussed over and over with senate leadership florida's agricultural industry needs help. our schools need additional funding to deal with the influx of students from puerto rico into florida. our critical infrastructure, such as the lake okeechobee dike needs funding to withstand a future storm. the agriculture industry in our state sustained significant damage after irma. the citrus growers suffered approximately $760 million of loss. why?
because as -- right after the hurricane, the citrus grove in central florida that senator rubio and i visited, half the crop was on the ground. but if you go further south in florida, there are groves where there are 100% of the oranges because of the voracity of the wind ended up on the ground. that's a total loss. the wind was so severe there that it uprooted the trees, and so the loss was crippling to the industry. and, of course, this is an industry that's been battling to keep its lifeblood flowing because it's been battling this bacteria called greening that will kill a tree in five years. we've got another program going on of the citrus research fund trying to find the magic cure,
but in the meantime they found some ways to keep the trees, and different varieties of trees, to live longer than the five years, but we've got to address the problem right now. and so if the poor citrus growers didn't have enough trouble with all the citrus kanger from years earlier, now they are producing 260 million. the funding in this disaster bill will be essential in helping the citrus industry recover. now, additionally, senator rubio and i have called for, many times before, florida schools need funding in the aftermath of irma and maria.
we now know that up-to-date about 12,000 students from puerto rico that have evacuated to florida, they are enrolled, others from the virgin islands have enrolled in florida schools. every child has a right to a quality education, but that can't happen without the appropriate resources. the schools need help. no child should have their education hindered by a natural disaster, and so this disaster aid bill is going to be crucial for schools funding in order to do their best to ensure that those students are receiving the education they deserve. and this deal also includes $15 billion for the army corps of engineers.
it's for mitigation and resiliency projects. and that likewise the two senators from florida have been working on to ensure that some of those funds are used to expedite construction on the lake lake okeechobee dike. it is a critical public safety project and it should be completed as quickly as possible. we want to see it accelerated by three years for its completion from 2025 to 2022. and so if the army corps of engineers, out of these additional resources, will take $200 million a year for the next several years, they can speed up the construction of that dike. and so we're going to be continuing to have sessions with the army corps of engineers to try to accomplish just that.
and so there's a long list, an exhaustive list, of the needs of florida after the hurricane and now, as we see so many of our fellow u.s. citizens on puerto rico, you just can't keep treating u.s. citizens like they are. so hopefully this is going to speed up the recovery efforts, and that's why when the news broke last week that fema reportedly planned to end, get this, end distributing food and water, obviously there was an outrage and there was outrage of the two senators here. and we appreciate fema making clear the next day that they would continue to provide aid to the people and that includes
that food and water. and so as we've discussed with the senate leadership about what was essential in this disaster aid bill, it's an important step to the recovery of the people of florida and puerto rico. and then there's another thing that i've got to mention and that is, can you believe that the medicaid money that was given to puerto rico in a lump sum called a block grant is going to end -- it's going to run out next month. but the $4.8 billion in supplemental for puerto rico's medicaid program, along with the 100% federal match for two years, we can guarantee that one
million of our fellow u.s. citizens on the island won't be denied health care coverage when they need it the most. otherwise, they are going to run out next month. it's long overdue. we can finally provide much needed relief for disaster affected areas. so, please, let's pass this aid bill this week and let's send it to the president. mr. president, ile yield the floor. mr. rubio: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida. mr. rubio: mr. president, i want to add to these comments. first just let me say in this time of -- a lot of noise and news about sort of the divisions in american publics that -- politics, despite different opinions on issues, this is what the people of florida want us to
do, and that is come together and work on the issues that we can work together on. on that front, i must say the ability to work with senator nelson on this is invaluable, to have two senators from two different parties singing from the same song sheet about the priorities that are critical to our state. and what's unique about the storm, the impact on florida wawfnts just on florida but also the impact on puerto rico. the impact on puerto rico has had an impact on puerto rico but also on florida. senator nelson touched upon that a moment ago. when the house passed its relief package at the end of december. there were a lot of good things in it. the president came out with his proposal. it had some good things but it needed work. then the house took it. the house added a few things to it. but over the last two months, it's been the ability to work here in the senate, not in front of the cameras, not, obviously, through a series of press conferences, but the way legislation is put together and
the way we were able to work together and our offices worked together that we were able to come out with a concise, unified position on the needs of both florida and puerto rico, working the leadership of the democratic party on his side and the republican on ours. and i've got to tell you, in a place where it's very hard to get 60% of what you want and that's a win, when you start to go through some of the items that are going to be in this relief package, it would be hard to complain. with perhaps a small exception here or there, virtually all of the things that are critical for disaster relief for florida and to a large extent as well for puerto rico are going to be included in this. i think while a lot of us are very concerned about how long it took, we should have done this four weeks ago, three weeks ago. there are other reasons why. it wasn't disaster relief holding it up. it was the other issues holding it up. this was held up until other things were agreed o. now we'll be able to move forward.
while no one wants to have a hurricane and no one wants a natural disaster, i think this is a response that we should be happy about. and i think a testament to the sorts of things that we can achieve here in the senate when we can put aside our differences on other iues and work together on ts. by the way, i want to say, becausi don't want anyone to read into that, we vote differently on a lot of issues but senator nelson and i cooperate on a host of things from judges to anything that impacts florida and i hope we can get to doing more of that as a senate, not just in florida. maybe senator nelson and i are always in a good mood because it doesn't snow in florida and it's warm where everywhere else it's cold. but i think the people of florida should be pleased that we're able to work together. highlights, senator nelson touched on a lot of them. i'll start with the puerto rico one because it's still one we
see an impact on on a regular basis. jennifer gonzalez, the resident commissioner, basically the member of congress representing puerto rico in the house i is an extraordinary advocate for puerto rico, not a good one, not a great one, an extraordinary one. she's tireless, nonstop. i'm talking about sunday evenings, sunday night, early monday morning. constant work, constant. an incredible partner in this endeavor. and the things that she's been able to achieve because even when we got an agreement on a lot of this in the senate, we had to go to jennifer and ask for her help so make sure the leadership in the house would be on board. and the respect that hou leadership has for her was instrumental. because in the end, because of the way this is now lined up, no matter what we agree to here, we send it over there and they don't want it, we couldn't do it. her ability to get the house to go along with these changes is invaluable. i just need to say that publicly. so much of this is due directly to her. she is the voice of puerto rico
in washington. and to the extent that these things are happening above and beyond what would have already happened, it is in large residue to having her here. she's phenomenal and the ability to work with her has made this possible. senator nelson talked about the medicaid cliff that puerto rico faces. last year we were able to fill that gap for one year. this does it for to years through funding, a hundred percent, culled f map. it's what we did for the state of louisiana after variety. we're replicating that model here. now for the next two years puerto rico doesn't have to worry about that. they can focus on the other issues without having to worry about that. there's money in disaster relief to repair infrastructure, money to repair hospitals, to repair hospitals and community health centers. there's $75 million for displaced college students that had to leave their school in puerto rico or in the virgin islands for that matter. there's over $11 billion for cdbg funds which is going to go directly to puerto rico. by the way, the virgin islands also gets $2 billion. $la million to restore the cuss
-- $45 million to restore the customs house in san juan and money to help retrain and get people going again, get employment functioning, coast guard repairs. puerto rico, the u.s. border in the caribbean is puerto rico. so having the coast guard not just to respond to disasters at sea but to be able to enforce law and prevent drug smuggling. you smuggle drugs into puerto rico, you're in the united states. there's no customes from that -- customs from that point forward. help to repair clinics that were serving women, infants, and children. h.h.s. funding. $150 million to replenish the disaster relief fund as it applies to puerto rico. transportation funding, particularly improvements to the f.a.a. and the facilities at the airport. the federal highways. it's everything that was important is there. there's more to do. next week we'll have a new initiative. we're not prepared to discuss it yet but in addition and separate from disaster relief, to help puerto rico not just recover from the storm but set itself up
for long-term economic success. i look forward to unjailing that -- unveiling that next week. for the time being, ts is perhaps the first good news that the people o gotten from washington since the storm hit. and i just want to say it is due to the part nearship senator nelson and myself but also, frankly, the extraordinary assistance of the leadership here in the senate, my party, senator mcconnell, the appropriations staff and members on both sides of the aisle who all from the very beginning expressed a willingness to be helpful. we don't often come to the floor to talk about good news of our process but we couldn't be more pleased. senator nelson talked about the impact on florida. we'll rapidly go through some of those. we've come to the floor multiple times to talk about the need to help our citrus industry, florida's signature crop. this has the money to do so. this will be an incredibly large effort for the secretary of agriculture to administer this
but i know i speak for florida's growers when i say this is important work. feeding our nation is important work. i stand committed to working with the secretary and with our commissioner of agriculture adam putnam who is aware of this and has been instrumental in putting together this package, really important. there's important funding here for the emergency watershed protection program, emergency conservation program, rural development water and wastewater grants, emergency fluid systems, funding to repair the agriculture research facilities. ere are fourf these in florida. those are the facilities tt are gog to innovate -- innovate the cures that we need to save florida's citrus in the long term. there's money here for education, particularly infrastructure -- educational infrastructure repairs to help displaced students and to hire new teachers. this is especially important. we've now seen thousands of students that have -- u.s. citizens, students that have come from puerto rico to florida to get their education. there's money to help with higher education facilities, to rebuild facilities that were
damaged in the storm. money to help displaced higher education students. there's $35 million for an educated related expenses for local education agencies and higher education institutions to help them recover from violent or traumatic events. there's $25 million to assist homeless students. $650 million for head start. i would note there are at least 45 damaged head start facilities in florida. community block grant funding to the tune of about $28 billion of which $16 billion will be directed for unmet needs and $12 million for mitigation to prevent the loss of these facilities in the future. the list goes on and on. there's more. we'll be putting out even more details. the army corps has a lot of important projects in florida. and -- but there's one in particular that as we go through, there's over $600 million for repairs to the operations and maintenance funds. $810 million in flood control and coastal emergency funding. we had everglades restoration
projects going on in florida that were damaged by the storm, including these large retaining ponds, basically lakes. they are enormous bodies of water that are used to clean out phosphates. this helps. by the way, this is also going to in addition to expedite the completion of the hoover dike which is important for people living south of okeechobee, this expa indicts that. this is -- expedites that. this has been authorized but the ability to move forward is critical because it will help free up funds and time for all the other important projects with regards to restoring the ever blades and preventing the overflow of lake okeechobee which could kill people. there's one in particular, the south atlantic coast comprehensive study, it's a federal project that basically looks at vulnerabilities to sea level rise in coastal areas and things of that nature. that's going to be a part of this. long going in the future, we're
going to continue to see the threats this poses because of the storm surge and the like and, of course, there's a little -- there's some language in there modeled after a bill that i had filed. it gives the assistant secretary for preparedness and response direct hiring authority to ensure that h.h.s. has the arynecess emergency medical personnel to rpondo another natural disaster. because the hurricane season is about five months away. there is $60 million for community health center repairs. about 28 in florida. nearly a hundred in puerto rico. $50 million for n.i.h. for specific grants and infrastructure repairs. within the top line numbers for fema in this, there will be a total of $33 billion for staff and reimbursable costs. we're involved in ongoing discussions with the administration which is responsible for directly coordinating with the governors in the states with regards to this. but this should be more than enough to pay the unmet costs for hospital repairs, medical
services, et cetera. a couple more points. we have a massive debris problem, particularly in monroe county, the canals and florida keys, lawn furniture, sunk boats. this has money in there to help clean that. local governments have run out of money. they can't do it. this repairs coast guard facilities that were damaged by these storms. it has funds $1.65 billion for small business administration loans. the national park service, i toured the ever blydes with -- everglades with secretary zinke. it is money that will include repairs for the destroyed facilities by the national park service. funding for the -- under the department of transportation, $140 million for florida that includes $8 million for f.a.a. facilities, a hundred million just for florida for the federal highway administration, $27 million for florida transit administration. and finally under fema, the disaster relief fund is fully funded to meet the unmet needs. this money will ensure that fema has the resources needed to
assistance disaster survivors as well as to repair and restore damage infrastructure in florida and in puerto rico. i just hope that we can get support for this. i know that i saw the senator from texas here a few moments ago. i imagine he may speak to that at some point if not today, texas also suffered terribly, virgin islands suffered, california has had the fires. but i would say that it took longer than we wanted to. but i think the people of florida should be very pleased with the disaster relief package that the senate is about to present and hopefully will pass and pass in the house and this is good news. and i was grateful to be a part of it. i want to thank my staff that work incredibly hard to help advance this and we've been waiting for this day. we're excited this day is finally here. it makes our service here really meaningful when you can take your actions and turn it into progress and results. this is the reason why -- one of the reasons why i ransom for
reelection when at one point i didn't think i would, is to come back and make a difference. today i know that working with so many others, including jennifer gonzalez in the house and senator nelson and our leadership here in the senate, we're about to make a real difference. it makes our time here rewarding. and i'm excited to have been a part of it and i look forward to doing more. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor.
vote on the nomination with no intervening action or debate, that if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table, the president be immediately notified of the senate's action, that no further motions be made in order, and that any statement relating to the nomination be printed in the record. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. cruz: mr. president. thpriding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cruz: reserving the right to object. i thank my friend from iowa for his continued efforts both on behalf of mr. northey and working to find a commonsense solution to the issue that has thus far delayed mr. northey's confirmation. you know, the phrase my friend
is used often in this body. sometimes it is used in a hollow manner, but in this instance, senator grassley is my friend. he and i have worked together closely on a great many matters, especially on the judiciary committee, and i have every confidence that we will continue to work together closely for many years to come. on this issue, mr. northey could have been confirmed in november. he could have been confirmed in january. he could have been confirmed this month, but that has not happened yet. it is my hope that mr. northey will be confirmed. it is my hope that he will be confirmed swiftly and expeditiously. but the critical element for that to happen is for us to find a solution to a problem that is threatening tens of thousands of jobs across this country.
that problem ases from what's known as the renewable fuels standard. the renewable fuels standard established through the e.p.a. a system called rins. most people don't know what a rin is. a rin is a renewable identification number. it is something made up by the e.p.a. they didn't use to exist. they created r.i.n.'s and they sell r.i.n.'s to refineries. r.i.n.'s are designed to be an enforcement mechanism for the renewable fuels standard. but there is a problem. r.i.n.s., when they were first introduced, sold for a penny or two pennies each. the e.p.a. assured everyone they would continue to sell for one or two cents each. but since then, we have seen the market for r.i.n.'s break. r.i.n.'s have skyrocketed in price to as high as $1.40 each.
what does that mean? what does it mean for this fiat governmentally created artificial license to be selling at $1.40 apiece as they hit at their high point? well, it means that thousands upon thousands of blue-collar union jobs are at risk. and, mr. president, this is not a hypothetical threat. just last month, philadelphia energy solutns owner of the laest refinery on the east coast, announced that it was going into bankruptcy, and they pointed the finger squarely at the broken r.i.n.'s system. in their bankruptcy filing, they explained that, quote, the effect of the r.f.s. program on the debtor's business is the primary driver behind the debtor's decision to seek relief under the bankruptcy code. now, that's not a surprising statement, given what's happened in the artificial and broken
r.i.n.'s market. in 2012, philadelphia energy solution paid roughly $10 million for the r.i.n.'s for the licenses they needed to run their company. by 2017, "the wall street journal" was estimating they would pay $300 million. that's $10 million to $300 million. $300 million is more than double their total payroll. mr. president, you spent many years in business. can you imagine running a business where you spend more than double your payroll to write a check not to buy anything, not to pay anybody, not to buy any supplies, but simply to purchase a government license, so to speak, that is crushing and it is destroying jobs. with respect to philadelphia energy solutions, just now in bankruptcy, we're talking about 1,100 jobs here. these are blue-collar,
working-class jobs, the kind that are the backbone of our economy, the kind that keep refineries going. ryan callahan who heads the steelworkers local said that the r.f.s. is, quote, a lead weight around the company. he also said that a great many of the union members supported president trump in the 2016 election because of his promise to reform harmful regulations. indeed, the president of that union demonstrated great courage in supporting president trump because he believed the president and the administration would stand for working class voters, would stand for the working men and women and would pull back regulations that are killing jobs. the american people will be rightfully angry if we don't fix this problem. it's not just one refinery.
nationwide, experts have estimated anywhere from 75,000 to 150,000 american jobs are potentially at risk if u.s. independent refineries go out of business. 75,000 to 150,000 jobs. my own state of texas would be deeply affected if we don't take action immediately. texas' oil and gas sector employs 315,000 people, 100,000 of whom are in the refining and petrochemical production. we have 29 refineries that produce over 5.1 million barrels daily. 22 of these 29 refineries are hurt directly by the artificially high r.i.n.'s prices. that's why this past december, texas governor greg abbott wrote to the e.p.a. asking for relief from this federal mandate. he explained that, quote, current implementation of this dated federal mandate severely impacts texas' otherwise strong
economy and jeopardizes the employment of hundreds of thousands of texans. mr. president, let me underscore that. jeopardizes the employment of hundreds of thousands of texans. if you want to know why i am fighting so hard to reach a good solution, you need look no further than that statement. i am elected, like each of the members of this body, to represent my constituents. in this case, 28 million texans, and seeing hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers driven out of business because of a broken regulatory system makes no sense. well, perhaps one might think this is simply an instance of parochial differences, of the battles between one state or another, one industry or another. well, mr. president, that's not the case because on substance, there is a win-win solution here. i want a win for blue-collar
refinery workers, and i want a win for iowa corn farmers. i believehere is a win for both i believe there is a policy solution that results in iowa corn farmers selling more corn and also results in more blue-collar jobs. that should be a solution that makes everybody happy. however, there is a third player in this equation which consists of wall street speculators who were betting on this artificial government-created market and driving the prices up. the important thing to realize when i talked about philadelphia energy solution paying $300 million, that $300 million did not go to iowa farmers. it didn't go to ethanol producers. it went to speculators and large companies outside of iowa.
we can reach a solution that ends the speculating, ends the gamesmanship in this artificial government market and saves jobs. and with respect to mr. northey, i will say i don't know mr. northey personally. i have heard from a number of people who do. by all accounts, mr. northey has a good and strong reputation in the state of iowa. he is a fourth generation farmer. he has impressed many people with the job he has done as the secretary of agriculture in the state of iowa. and i have made clear from the bennthat i was happy to see mr. northey confirmed in november, in december, in january, in february, and indeed i have laid out how to make that happen. november 14, 2017, i wrote a letter to iowa governor kim reynolds laying out how mr. northey could be confirmed, which is namely to have the stakeholder sit down,
collaboratively together and solve this problem in a win-win solution that helps iowa corn farmers and also doesn't bankrupt refineries and drive blue-collar workers out of business. indeed, in december, i met with both of the senators from iowa, along with senator toomey, to discuss exactly that, how we can move forward with mr. northey's confirmation promptly, efficiently, and also solve this problem. at that time it was suggested that we bring the stakeholders together, that we actually have the players and the ethanol industry actually talk with the refiners and find a solution that results in more corn being sold and refiners not going out of business. we left that meeting on decembeo have that meeting of stakeholders.
mr. president, i'm sorry to tell you 48 days have passed and tha meeting still hasn't taken place, because unfortunately a handful of lobbyists representing the ethanol industry have taken the position that they are unwilling to meet, they are unwilling to speak, they are unwilling to discuss anything with anybody, and apparently if thousands of people lose their jobs in refineries, that's not their problem. mr. president, quite frankly, that's not a reasonable position. that is not a reasonable or rational position. mr. northey would have been confirmed long ago had the lobbyists for the ethanol industry been willing to come to the table and reach a commonsense solution that would have resulted in more money for their industry, more ethanol, more corn. but their position is they are not interested in a win because their position has been they're not willing to talk. well, i think that is
unfortunate, but it's also unacceptable. so indeed, i continue to have productive conversations with the president, with the e.p.a., with the department of agriculture, with the administration about finding a win-win solution, a solution that is good for everyone, and if a handful of lobbyists refuse to come to the table, then they should not be surprised to see the solution proceed without them. we can find a good, positive solution that benefits the farmers of iowa, that sells more corn. now, mr. president, in twist and 2016, -- in 2015 and 2016, i spent a lot of time in the great state of iowa. indeed, i had the great privilege and blessing of completing what is affectionately known in that state as the full grassley.
what is the full grassley? there are 99 counties in that beautiful state. every year, the senior senator goes to all 99. now, i can tell you the full grassley is a herculean accomplishment, rendered all the more remarkable by the fact that the senior senator does it not once but every year. well, on election day, i completed the full grassley, having visited every county in the state of iowa. i have visited with many wonderful people, including many wonderful corn farmers who i want to see selling more and more corn. we can have a solution that's a win for those corn farmers but also doesn't bankrupt refineries and drive a bunch of blue-collar workers out of work. it's important to understand, by the way, that these high rents prices don't benefit corn farmers at all. in fact, if you look at r.i.n.'s prices, they are not remotely correlated to the price of corn. if anything, they are inversely
correlated. what does that mean, mr. president? it means when r.i.n.'s were selling for one and two cents each, corn was way up here. and when r.i.n.'s skyrocketed tn plummeted. so not only is this not benefiting iowa corn farmers, you could argue it may even be hurting them. the money that is bankrupting refineries and costing people their jobs is not going to the farmers, and so my hope is we reach a solution that lifts regulatory barriers at the e.p.a. so that the iowa corn farmers can sell more corn in the market in response to real demand, not a government mandate, but there are e.p.a. barriers that stand in the way that cap the sales of ethanol. i see no reason to artificially cap it. if there is demand in the marketplace, they should be able
to sell more and more and more corn, expand their market. but they are not benefiting from crushing regulatory costs that are driving people out of business. we can reach a solution and do both. and with respect to mr. northey, if and when we see the players come together in a positive way to solve this problem, i will more than readily lift my objection, and i hope mr. northey is confirmed and confirmed quickly. i look forward to working with mr. northey in the department of agriculture, but first we need to stop this regulatory failure that is threatening thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs. therefore, looking to find a cooperative win-win solution for everyone, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. grassley: did you make your formal objection?
mr.cruz:yes. mr. grassley: thank you. normally i would speak after the senator from texas but i'm going to call on the colleagues who are here because i've got more time than they have. i know the senator from texas has to go, and he accurately did describe our relationship generally in this body as senators from iowa and from texas. i want to let everybody know that we have that good relationship. we sure disagree on this issue. i'm sorry we do. and with that said, i'm going to defer to the senator from michigan. and i want to say that she's the ranking member of the agriculture committee and represents the farmers of michigan very well, but also in
her leadership position as former chairman of the agriculture committee and now the ranking member, she has done a great job of leadership in the area of agriculture. so would you proceed. ms. stabenow: thank you very much. mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: thank you very much for those kind words from the senior senator from iowa. we have partnered on many things together related to agriculture, and i'm rising today to support senator grassley and senator ernst in this motion. we need to fill this position with an eminently qualified person, bill northey, right away. it's long overdue. so as the ranking member the senaicultu committee, i am in strong support of the nomination of bill northey to be under secretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services. you know, despite historic delays in receiving nominations from the administration, our
committee has worked swiftly on a bipartisan basis to put qualified leaders into place at the usda. when we get qualified nominees, we move them. and under secretary nominee bill northey is no exception. in fact, i believe that he is a bright star in terms of the nominees and those that will be serving in the usda. he was nominated in september, mr. president, of last year, and our committee quickly held a hearing and reported his nomination with a unanimous bipartisan support to the floor on october 19. mr. northey is a highly qualified nominee. he is currently serving his third term as secretary of the iowa department of agriculture and land stewardship. a farmer himself, he understands what america agriculture needs and has pledged to be a strong leader for our producers, and i
have confidence in him. unfortunately, instead of serving our farmers and ranchers at usda, his nomination has nguishedn i partisan limbo because of an unrelated issue raised by a senate republican colleague not on the agriculture committee. i appreciate that members have various kinds of concerns, but it's important to note that mr. northey's leadership is needed now on a number of issues, including the fact that he is in charge of disaster -- he would be in charge of disaster recovery for our farmers. in texas and in florida and louisiana and all across the country who are serving in the aftermath of hurricanes, wildfire and drought, it's also important for him to be at usda
to support our farmers struggling with low prices. for the better part of a year i've been working with leaders of the appropriations committee, by the way, senator cochran and senator leahy, to fix a few pieces of the 2014 farm bill that didn't quite work as we intended them, the dairy and cotton safety net provisions. and i do want to indicate while i'm on the floor that the senate budget agreement contains significant improvements for both commodities, including more than $1 billion in support for our struggling dairy farmers. these much-needed improvements set us up to continue our bipartisan work to write the next farm bill, what needs to be done this year. and i look forward to working with our chairman, senator roberts, as well as our two distinguished members from iowa on the creating the kind of farm bill that we need for our farmers and ranchers and families.
unfortunately, though, when politics get in the way, our farmers and our ranchers lose. so i'm hopeful that we can resolve whatever issues or at least move them to a different debate rather than focusing them on this nominee who is very much needed. his leadership is needed right now at the usda. he has strong bipartisan support. and i think it's very unfortunate that his nomination has gotten caught up in another issue. and i'm hopeful that we could ask our colleague, our senate colleague to choose to address that in another way without getting in the way of critical leadership on disaster assistance and conservation and critical issues that the usda needs to have his leadership on. so i'm -- mr. northey has strong bipartisan support, should be
advanced quickly. we need his leadership skills. and i'm going to continue to do everything i can to work with my colleagues to be able to make sure he has the opportunity to serve farmers and ranchers as part of the usda leadership. thank you, mr. president. mrs. ernst: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mrs. ernst: thank you. i would like to thank the ranking member from agriculture for joining us here on the floor today. i appreciate her great bipartisan work on the ag committee. i am pleased to be a member of that committee. and it is truly one of those committees where we set aside any political differences. we actually work for the good of our agricultural committee, our ranchers and our farmers, regardless of the state that they come from. we truly do work together to feed and fuel a nation. so thank you very much for joining us today, ranking member. i want t thank my senior senator from iowa as well.
i'm rising today to join my colleague, senator chuck grassley, and others that have joined us on the floor to support the nomination of bill northey as under secretary for farm production and being conservation at the united states department of agriculture, the usda. i have known bill northey for nearly a decade. and to be honest, probably a little more than a decade. he is a great friend. he is a great iowan. and most importantly, he is a tenacious advocate and true voice for agriculture and our rural communities. he has worked in agricultural policy at nearly every level of government. at a time when we need to tackle many critical agricultural priorities, including the farm
bill, which the ranking member just mentioned, that farm bill was hraflt -- last authorized two years ago, in late 2014, at a time when the president is rightly focusing on economic development and strengthening rural america, and at a time when our government is focused on seamlining and reducing the burdens of environmental regulations, we must -- we must have leadership in this position, as i mentioned, the under secretary for farm production and conservation at usda, we must have leadership there that truly gets the real underlying concerns and priorities of america's farmers and ranchers. we need them addressed.
bill northey is exactly the person to do that. when i think about the importance of getting someone like bill northey in this position, i reflect on the young farmer who is looking to begin a farming operation in rural iowa to feed his or her family, grow a business, cultivate a legacy in their own community all while low commodity prices have pinched margins and extreme weather has decimated our crops. that young farmer needs washington to get out of the way and give them an opportunity to thrive. bill northey is the right guy to work these issues. he knows that his role in washington won't be to empower a faceless bureaucracy, but to make washington work for its
people. give agriculture industry the tools that it needs to prosper. bill northey is that average, everyday iowan who cares about agriculture and its future. senate agriculture committee chairman roberts and ranking member stabenow have made it abundantly clear that they have no objection to mr. northey. as both indicated in a joint statement that said in part, and i'm quoting, bill northey is a qualified and respected public servant who knows agriculture firsthand, and he will serve rural america well at usda.
end quote. now the ranking member joined us earlier, and she went a step further by saying to bill, saying this to him, quote, i know that you are a farmer. you understand these challenges annow that our farmers need leaders that will speak up for them when their voices are not being heard. end quote. he was voted out of the ag committee unanimously. let me state that again. he was voted out of the ag committee unanimously. and if you didn't hear that, let me say it a third time. he was voted out of the ag committee unanimously. democrats and republicans
believe that bill northey is a leader, and he is being held hostage over an unrelated issue. bill northey's nomination has become entangled in an unrelated policy dispute. i'm very disappointed that a man, an upstanding man like bill, someone we desperately need to serve in our government, we truly want to drain the swamp, bill northey is exactly who we need. he is that everyday american fighting for agriculture. we need him desperately, and we may not be able to do so, have him serve in our government because this policy dispute has led to a hold on his nomination. bill northey is extremely
qualified. extremely qualified. he has the experience, the reputation, and most importantly, he has the voice and the heart for american agriculture. i'm asking for a quick vote and confirmation of this well-respected, beloved iowan so that we can get him in place and work on matters that truly are important. not just to iowans and the midwest, but to all of america. let's free bill. let's free bill, folks. let's confirm bill northey. thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president.
the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. ms. klobuchar: mr. president, i appreciate my colleue, senator ernst's remarks as well as ranking member stabenow and of course senator grassley, who has been such a leader on ag issues, as well as senator ernst, in their state. and i come here to join senator grassley and not only from the other side of the aisle, but also where iowa and minnesota are concerned, across the border. our states have rivalries in football and many other things, but one thing we always agree on is having strong people to be the voice of agriculture at the usda. i supported secretary purdue when president trump nominated, and i believe that he needs a team to be able to do the complicated work of agriculture at a time when we've seen difficulty in everything from the dairy industry to cotton to
issues with prices for so many of our commodities to just only a few years ago the avian flu, which was such a threat to the pulte industry -- poultry industry in minnesota and iowa and the thought that we wouldn't have an under secretary in place for farm producing and conservation, so an important part of the work of the usda right now is unbelievable to me. as the nominee for the under secretary in this area, mr. northey to be tasked with guiding some of usda's important agencies that interact with farmers and ranchers on ale daily basis, -- on a daily basis, including the farm agency. it is so important to my farmers when it comes to how to sign up for things in complicated progra and the need the farm service agenc the natural resources
conservation service, the risk management agency. as we prepare to write and to pass a bipartisan farm bill, mrd legal assistance from usda is going to be critical. the absence of an under secretary for this critical mission also has a domino effect that is leaving important usda agencies without leadership or guidance. this is not good governance. secretary perdue picked him because he served as a state alleging a commissioner. -- associate agriculture commissioner. as senator ernst pointed out, this is someone who knows a state that has a lot of agriculture. when he came before the senate agriculture committee last october, i had the opportunity to question him about his priorities for the usda. he has spent his entire life in
agriculture. he knows farmers, he knows rural economy, and he knows what is needed. i appreciated the fact that he answered honestly questions about the renewable fuel standard. he sees it, as i do in minnesota, as a homegrown economic generator. we are a state right next door to north dakota. we apprecie their ethanol and oil industries. these are pertinent parts of minnesota's and our country's energy. we see biofuels as an economic generator. this idea that we want to make sure that we are keeping strong industries alive so that the farmers and the workers of the midwest are taking part in energy just as much as the oil sheiks in the mideast. the final rule for 2018 and 2019 that went through two administrations kept volume requirements for ethanol steady and made some improvement of
blend target of biofuels. the final rule was a declarative statement by the administration that renewable fuels are an important part of the transportation fuel supply and important part of our economy, but that is what this is about. our friend from texas, senator cruz, has decided to use the nomination of someone who has done nothing but served our country and served the state of iowa as the agriculture secretary there, the agriculture commissioner with merit. i don't believe you should be holding nominees hostage. this is not something i've done as a senator and senator cruz and i have debated this in the past when he held up the ambassadors to norway and sweden, two ambassador positions that were very important to iowa, to minnesota because of our scandinavian populations, yet we went for years without ambassadors to those really
important allied countries. we went for years with two qualified people who could have gone through, just like this nominee, unanimously through the foreign relations committee without objections. yet senator cruz was concerned with the naming of a street in front of the embassy of china, which was completely unrelated. while i appreciate him representing interest in his state and i appreciate the fact that we can have legitimate debates about energy and energy policy, i just don't believe you should be holding qualified nominees hostage. in the case of the ambassadors to norway and sweden, we were ultimately triumphant because people from the republican side of the aisle and the democratic side of the aisle came together and saidnough is enough, we need peoplehat are qualified to fill these important positions in our government. that is exactly what is happening here again. this is a qualified nominee and
the senate should not be a place where someone of this qualification should be blocked for an important position just as we're considering the farm bill, just as we're dealing with disaster recovery all over the nation, including in places like texas, like florida, and i just don't believe in this scorched earth policy. i believe, like we do on the agriculture committee, we work things out. we may have differences of opinion, but we let people fill an important position like this. so i hope -- i'm glad that our colleague from texas has remained through this discussion with his friends from the midwest and we just hope that some of that midwestern common sense will come his way. because, like senator grassley, i visit every county in minnesota every year, all 87 counties, and i can tell you when i want to hear what the farmers think, i listen to senator grassley, but most importantly i listen to the people in my state and they want
to have a usda that is functioning and working and ready for all the issues we're confronting right now in agriculture in the u.s. thank you vy. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mrgrassley: mr. president, i thank my colleagues who have spoken very highly of the qualifications of mr. northey to be under secretary at the department of agriculture. i may say just a little bit about his qualifications, but i want to spend most of my time expressing to my colleagues in the senate and to senator cruz primarily why i think that the argument over r.i.n.'s being an impediment to some refineries operating efficiently and not having -- or going into bankruptcy or other problems they have.
and i would say that senator cruz has said that there are some things that can be put together to help this situation and i would name three of them that i think would work and then i would say why i disagree with the senator from texas about the r.i.n.'s issue and why he thinks that that's a solution to it and why i feel it's not a solution to it. first of all, my colleague from texas said that there is a problem with wall street speculators. i don't know whether that happens every day, but it happens sometimes and it is something that should be taken care of and i recognized that back in november of 2013 when i wrote a letter on that very subject urging the regulators to take a position on that.
i think greater transparency of this whole market would be very, ry good as well. i think that's a possibility and the senatornd i have discussed the e.p.a. putting out regulations on vapor so that we could get more ethanol in the percentage of e-15 as being very helpful. but i would say his idea of putting caps on r.i.n.'s will not work for the reason that when you do that you're getting -- the marketplace isn't working, and i suppose i'm a little surprised that a free market person like senator cruz would suggest the government stepping in and capping that,
but also to speak to the point that the e.p.a. itself in november, as an agency in november last year, 2017, said that the r.i.n.'s market was working which puts the agency in a little bit different position than where we think that the -- mr. pruitt, the director of e.p.a. is coming from. so with that in mind, i'm going to go to my remarks right now anexpress that it's very unfortunate that the is a -- there is an objection to advancing president trump's nomination of bill northey to be under secretary at the department of agriculture all because of unrelated concerns of the renewable fuel standard which is a law passed by congress and obviously administered by the e.p.a.
i'm very disappointed that a highly qualified and honorable man like bill northey is being held up for an issue unrelated to his position. secretary northey enjoyed, as you heard my colleagues say, unanimous support from the senate agriculture committee and has the support of numerous agriculture groups from around the country. and then getting to the r.i.n.'s issue and my feeling that that's not a legitimate reason for either holding up this nomination or for the bankruptcy that's been referred to or for any other refinery that has trouble. i think it's a manufactured and baseless rumor that the r.f.s., the renewable fuel standard, has caused an oil refinery in pennsylvania to file for
bankruptcy. this example has been cited repeatedly as a justification for forcing the renewable fuel standard supporters to agree to sudden and drastic changes of how the renewable fuel standard was designed. i've been trying to work in good faith with the senator from texas and have offered several options, some of them that i just have expressed here in my off-the-cuff remarks that would result in lower prices in the renewable -- or the r.i.n.'s issue. and has been said that stands for reasonable identification number and that is what we call the compliance credits to make sure that the refineries use the right amount of ethanol in -- to
meet the renewable fuel standard. however, i keep being told that i need to -- by the senator from texas -- accept a proposal for a guaranteed cap on r.i.n.'s prices in the short term to save is pennsylvania, philadelphia refine. unfortunately for those spreading the rumors that the problem that the philadelphia refinery has that they are due to high r.i.n. prices, from my point of view, and i hope i back this up in a paper that we have disseminated within the past week, the facts done r don't add up -- don't add up very well for the people making the argument that r.i.n. prices are the problem. my staff and other analysts have read the s.e.c. filings and the bankruptcy filings of the
refinery in question and come to the conclusion that the philadelphia refinery cannot pin its problems on the renewable fuel standard. the number one problem that the philadelphia refinery has faced is the result of the petroleum export ban being lifted which costs it access to cheaper feed stalks. another reason, and the second biggest problem it is -- it has is that a pipeline open which had crude oil away from the east coast becse of the pipeline sending it somewhere else raising thrice of the feedstock to the philadelphia refinery. we keep being told that the refinery is facing hardship because it cannot afford to buy
enough r.i.n.'s to comply with the renewable fuel standard. if that is the case, then why did this philadelphia refinery sell off a significant quantity of r.i.n.'s just last fall? is that -- that is quite odd considering the company needs to turn them in later this month for compliance with the renewable fuel standard. some have said it's executing a market short on r.i.n.'s which is dependent on some sort of federal action that will suddenly drive down the cost of r.i.n.'s. i would point out that shorting the r.i.n.'s market is something that carl icon is being investigated for by federal investigators. i hope the philadelphia refinery is not trying to follow that same playbook.